by Huw Thomas
FOR a relative newcomer, SsangYong’s Korando Sports has had quite an impact on the pick-up market here. According to the Society of Motor Manufacturers & Traders it was ‘No.3’ of the UK ‘Top 6’ pick-ups for 2015. For January-March (‘Q1’) this year, it took the ‘No.1’ slot with 3,104 delivered out of a sector total of 11,874. For 2015 only Mitsubishi (new L200) and Ford (Ranger) were ahead of SsangYong with Isuzu (DMax), Nissan (new late-year entry NP300 Navara) and Toyota (HiLux) 4th, 5th and 6th. Trailing the Korean company for Q1, Ranger was 2nd, L200 3rd, VW Amarok 4th, D-Max 5th and HiLux 6th. Q2 results, due in July, should be interesting. This company dates back to 1939 with truck and bus production from 1954. US Army Jeeps followed in 1964 and acquisition of Keohwa in 1986 enhanced 4×4 expertise. The name SsangYong (“Two” or “Twin Dragons” in Korean) was adopted in 1988. Daimler-Benz became heavily involved in the 1990s but the Asian financial crisis at the end of that decade saw ownership passing to Daewoo. That group’s bankruptcy in 2000 led to a brief period of independence again before a 2003 agreement with SAIC (Shanghai Automotive Industry Corp.) led to becoming a subsidiary in 2004. The respite however was brief. By 2008 SsangYong had to file for legal protection of its assets and SAIC pulled out. A period under court-appointed management ended in 2011 with a sale to India’s Mahindra & Mahindra – a vast manufacturing, trading, finance and services conglomerate intent on becoming an automotive global player. SsangYong had plans already for lighter, compact SUVs. The Korando launched in 2010 is an SUV-like crossover. Last year’s smaller Tivoli continues the theme of unitary body construction and front-wheel drive with on-demand 4×4 an option. These are very different to the Actyon (not on sale here) and Rexton which are more substantial dualuse 4x4s with traditional drive-lines and separate chassis. Korando Sports, by the way, is a pick-up variant on the Actyon/Rexton line not the Korando. A pick-up in the classic mould therefore: tough, should cope with a long, hard working life and has heavy duty load and towing capability. As a result, most pick-ups continue to have beam rear axles with semi-eliptic (leaf spring) suspension. But the Korando Sports was first to adopt a multi-link axle/independent rear suspension. Subsequently, of the major players (above) and China’s Great Wall, only Nissan’s new Navara has done likewise. Increasingly, pick-ups sell to private buyers and initially the Korando Sports had a sub-one tonne payload. Soon rectified, it’s now a clear commercial proposition at 1.075kg. Maximum braked trailer weight is 2.7tonne which is lower than the 3t expected these days and, e.g., 3.5t of Isuzu’s D-Max. Two models are on sale here: SX and eX and asking prices are £14,995-£18,495 (CV on the road pre VAT). Both offer part-time 4×4 drive with a 6speed manual or automatic transmission. Transfer box too of course and high/low ratios. equipment fairly generous: alloy wheels (16” SX; 18” eX); eX adds heated front seats, driver seat electric adjustment and rear park assist, for example but Sat- Nav is £999 extra. That said and despite its commendably modern suspension set-up, the SsangYong’s refinement falls short of say Mitsubishi’s L200, Volkswagen Amarok or other leading players who now do indeed begin to justify the description of “car-like”. Cabin quality not quite there either although it’s comfortable enough and has a better interior than Great Wall. Powertrain refinement as good as (certainly no worse than) the D-Max. Pricing, of course, puts things in perspective and here the Korando Sports scores: a touch dearer than Great Wall but markedly cheaper than the “establishment”. Buyers seem to have recognised a “more truck for your buck” proposition and deals have followed. It could do with a gutsier engine option but not a lot wrong otherwise.
Facts & Figures: 2.0 e-XDi 4cyl Diesel; 155ps; 6sp man/auto on test; 106mph; 35.3mpg (official combined); 27 (brim to brim, 27/28 TripComputer) on test; CO2 212g/km; Road Tax £230; Warranty 5yr unlimited mileage; Insurance Group 6E.